The New Tools That Let You Build a Personal GIF Library

Archiving! Annotating! Anthologizing! Assembling your own GIF Alexandria
Ancientlibraryalex650.jpg
An artist's reconstruction of the Library of Alexandria, where they did not have GIFs

Yesterday, a new Chrome extension came out. It has a humble, useful purpose: It organizes your GIFs.

Here's how it works. Right-click a GIF. Send it to your GIFme, which is a little window that hangs down from the toolbar of your browser. Type in three or four tags. Behold it in its catalogued glory--

--then, deploy it, exactly, perfectly, at the right time in a conversation. Your correspondent has now been startled, flummoxed, assailed by your expert GIF.

I find GIFme charming, because it's one of a few tools that have recently sprung up around the archiving and maintenance of one's GIFs. GIFs traffic in novelty: To surprise or delight with a GIF, you need a large lexicon of them. You need, in short, all the standard tools of knowledge creation: a well-kept personal collection; a larger archive, open to anybody; a method of combining and remixing. 

If GIFme helps you make a personal GIF collection, Giphy is the larger archive. It's a GIF search engine of sorts from Betaworks, and it launched this February to, uh, tepid reviews. Giphy seems to show that making a pure GIF search engine is hard, perhaps because GIFs, in their current, reactive usage, don't travel with much context. So, now, Giphy is a kind of GIF portal. There's still a big search box at the top, still, but there's also a place to get artistic GIFs and emotionally-coded GIFs and, crucially, timely GIFs, from, say, Doctor Who or Breaking Bad).

Giphy seems the fashionable, upscale Times Square of GIF discovery, compared to the spare, almost deadpan Bukk.it, a catalog of GIFs maintained by web designer Ethan Marcotte. Bukkit is little more than a list of file names and file sizes, an Old, Weird Internet-style UNIX folder on a server, but its names for GIFs have an internal, consistent wit. There are the four "Thanks, Obama" gifs, all captured from different infomercials; there's a memorable, editorializing clip named "webdesign.gif." 

And all these avenues of GIF discovery can propagate another new-ish GIF tool, Loudgif, made by Garrett Miller. LoudGif overlays a GIF onto the sound of a YouTube video, resulting in a very intrepid slinky. Or in monkeys cuddling to She & Him. Or (my favorite) a Neitzchean dog, on a zip line, exploring the jungle.

These new GIF tools of collection and recollection enrich, in their way, the Internet's GIF marketplace. They make the life of the amateur and professional GIF-er easier, lending a little organization to the hectic flow and ebb of GIFs. And (most importantly) they'll let you announce, as you prepare a Tumblr riposte, "To the archives!"

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Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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